'Digisexuality' emerges as a new sexual identity
This story was originally published in January, 2019.
Bit by bit, "digisexuality" is coming out of the closet.
The New York Times recently reported that more and more people are finding fulfilling emotional and sexual relationships with robots and other forms of technology.
Neil McArthur is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba, and co-author of "The Rise of Digisexuality," which appeared in the journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy.
"Digisexuality is just anytime you're using technology in sex or relationships," he told Spark host Nora Young, "whether it's through Snapchat or Skype, or meeting people online through Tinder or Bumble. Everybody's more or less a digisexual in this first wave sense."
Yet, McArthur has observed how digisexuality is also emerging as a sexual orientation due to intense sexual and emotional experiences provided by new advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.
"What distinguishes 'digisexuals' as a sexual identity is that they find their connection to their technology to be very close to those sorts of connections that we would make with human partners," said the professor.
Digisexuals have been increasingly covered in the news. In November, a 35-year-old Japanese man made headlines for marrying a hologram, and in 2017, an AI engineer in China married a robot (not legally). But there's still a lack of data on how widespread digisexuality is as an identity, partly because the technology is so new, and because those who come out often face stigma.
"We shouldn't create a new closet for digisexuals," said McArthur. "If we've learned anything from our history of stigmatizing people with marginalized sexual identities, it's that we always realize later that we shouldn't have done that. So maybe we should just skip that right now, and just accept this as something that can be normal and healthy."
So will digisexuality one day become accepted as a sexual identity within the mainstream culture?
McArthur thinks so. "We've become so much more open to alternative sexualities, and we're becoming so much more open to the role of technology, that I think it won't be long until we see digisexuality as just part of the rainbow of human sexual experience."